Azfar Rehman shared his experience with sexual harassment
Sexual harassment has been prevalent since time immemorial. Ever since people in power understood that extracting sexual favors out of those they can manipulate is a possibility, sexual harassment has plagued our world. As a society, it is only recently we’ve collectively woken up to how important it is to be mindful of conversations around sexually inappropriate behavior after women collectively broke through with raising their voices. While that has resulted in important realizations, change in public discourse and important strides have been taken in terms of sexual dynamics, it is also important to understand that there’s still a long way to go to achieve equality in its truest sense.
One of those important aspects of conversations around sexual propriety is that sexual harassment isn’t directed at one gender or sexual orientation alone. It is a widespread plague that is about exerting power through one’s sexuality and not about the act of having sex. Furthering this conversation, in a recent interview with Begum Nawazish Ali, Pakistani actor Azfar Rehman made some important revelations of his own experience with sexual harassment.
Azfar Rehman opened up about his experience with sexual harassment ever since his early days in the entertainment industry
The actor talked about the infamous casting couch and revealed that he had been offered ‘such’ things in return for favors regarding his career. In Azfar’s words, “jahan tak meri baat hai, of course, jab main aya tha there were a lot of offers, kay tum yeh yeh kar saktay ho tau, you know if you can do this for me then I can do that for you”.
While answering a question related to the ‘Me Too’ movement, Azfar claimed that he was also harassed by some female artists
Azfar said that he was in favor of the Me Too movement but “exposing sexual harassment on social media” is not something he endorses because one can’t verify the truth.
In his own words, “Being a male artist, there were times when I was also harassed by a couple of female artists, you know in the past, I would not like to name them but I have ignored it. Women can not always be right.”
With this revelation made by Azfar Rehman regarding sexual harassment, it is important to acknowledge that everyone can be at the receiving end of sexual harassment but it’s also important to acknowledge that our language referring to such conversations needs empathy and sensitivity
The whole idea of “exposing sexual harassment on social media for personal gains” is a completely misunderstood notion. In the real world, women who have come forward with sharing their experiences with sexual harassment are only exposing their own selves to ridicule and slut-shaming. So the idea that anyone who would come forward publicly just for “attention” is extremely problematic.
When Azfar said that sexual favors are not just asked for by those in power but also initiated by those who are looking to climb the professional ladder, his words are putting the blame on the survivors. Yes, it may have happened in some instances but the issue is that those looking to climb up the professional rung may initiate this only knowing that it will get the person in power to dole out favors for them. Clearly, the intention is to please the person in power, in either case.
For Azfar to put the blame on the one potentially getting professional favor in return for sexually inappropriate behavior is the exact victim blaming mentality that also puts the blame on people who are raped, and activists have spent years trying to educate people in exercising sensitivity when talking about such important conversations.
Empathy is rare but it is the need of the hour when someone share their experiences. It is equally important not to rationalize someone’s experience based on one’s own prior understanding of how such things unfold in your own limited knowledge. The experience you may have had is not the same as what someone else may have gone through.
You can watch Azfar’s full interview here:
I Suffered Sexual Abuse Since I Was 6, I Couldn’t Speak Up Earlier Because I Was Told It Was My Fault
Cover image via Khawar Riaz